Zimbabwe unrest may hinder World Cup challenge

Published on Tuesday 8th July 2008

Johannesburg: Political turmoil in neighbouring Zimbabwe was adding to a long list of problems South Africa faced in its preparation for the 2010 World Cup finals, FIFA general secretary Jerome Valcke said on Wednesday.

"The situation in Zimbabwe has to be solved quickly. What is happening there is definitely terrible," Valcke told a media briefing in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

"It would have been nice for South Africa with all the other challenges they are facing not to have the problem of Zimbabwe on top of it all." Valcke said FIFA backed various international initiatives to resolve the political impasse following the contested elections that returned president Robert Mugabe to power last month.

"We add our voice to concerns and we fully support what is being done by all international organisations."

But Valcke said he was unsure what the effect of possible international sanctions might be on Zimbabwe's national team, who are involved in 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

"Their national association has done nothing wrong. This would be something we would have to discuss with the United Nations. We do have links with some international bodies but for the time being I can tell you we have made no decision on Zimbabwe."

Valcke said the list of organisational challenges in South Africa for the 2010 tournament, which kicks off in 700 days from Thursday, remained long. On Tuesday organisers decided to drop Port Elizabeth as one of the venues for the Confederations Cup, an eight-team test event to be played next June.

The city had promised to complete their new Nelson Mandela Bay stadium by March but the South Africa 2010 World Cup Organising Committee said this was unlikely.

"It is a challenge to deliver a brand new stadium and if our main goal is to succeed in 2010 then it was a good idea to remove it from the 2009 tournament," Valcke said.

"We would rather drop them from the list than have to play in an uncompleted stadium. It is not the image we want to send out before 2010".

Valcke said he was considering increasing the frequency of his trips to the country from two monthly to monthly to help ensure South Africa would be ready.

Asked about his biggest challenge in the next 700 days, Valcke said: "I have a long list of things to do on my desk and all must be done in the end. We have to focus on everything. Nothing is ready yet but all has to be ready for 2010."